Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has assured Japanese Prime MinisterShinzo Abethat Iran has no intention to make, hold or use nuclear weapons, while saying that the country will not negotiate with theUnited States.
Abe met Khamenei – Iran’s top decision-maker – on Thursday during a trip toIranin an attempt to ease tensions between the Islamic republic and the US.
Following the meeting, which Iranian PresidentHassan Rouhaniappeared to have also attended, Abe told reporters that Khamenei had told him that Iran “will not and should not make, hold or use nuclear weapons, and that it has no such intentions”.
Shortly after, Iranian state news agency FARS confirmed the comment, but added that Khamenei had said Iran will not negotiate with the US and did not consider PresidentDonald Trump“worthy” of a message from Tehran.
“I do not see Trump as worthy of any message exchange, and I do not have any reply for him now or in the future,” Khamenei was quoted as saying.
The supreme leader also reportedly said that he does not believe Trump’s offer of honest negotiations and that he thinks the US president’s promise not to seek regime change in Iran is a lie.
The comments likely came as a blow to Abe, who told reporters at ajoint press conferencewith Rouhani on Wednesday, that helping to ease tension in the region was “the one single thought that brought me to Iran”.
Abe is completing a two-day visit to Iran, becoming the first sitting Japanese premier to visit the country since its 1979Islamic Revolution.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) June 13, 2019
In response, the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarifwarned on Mondaythat the US could not expect to “stay safe” while imposing an “economic war” on Iran and said that Iran would not engage in any talks unless the US was prepared to make concessions.
Abe secured Trump’s blessing for his mediation mission during the latter’svisit to Japanin May. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said the pair had spoken about Iran by telephone on Tuesday.
Japan has also traditionally had good ties with Iran, having once been a substantial buyer of Iranian oil, until it was forced by US sanctions to halt purchases.
Speaking at Wednesday’s joint press conference, Rouhani said that he saw Japanese interest in continuing to buy oil as a “guarantee” for the ongoing development of bilateral ties.
Takeshi Osuga, the spokesman for Japan’s foreign ministry said that deciding on oil purchases was the domain of private companies.
As the first leader of a G7 country to visit the Islamic Republic since Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Abe is the most high-profile representative of recent diplomatic efforts to engage Iran amid the rising tensions.
His visit comes hot on the heels of German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whoheld talkson saving the nuclear deal in the Iraninan capital, Tehran, on Monday.
Helga Maria Schmid, a top European Union foreign policy official at the helm of bloc efforts to save the deal, is also due to travel to Iran this week.
The visits are an indicator of the extent of international concern over tensions apparently escalating in the Gulf.
Reports emerged on Thursday of anincidentthat required two tankers in the Gulf of Oman to be evacuated.
One of the vessels was operated by a Japanese shipping company.
At the press conference with Rouhani on Wednesday, Abe said it was “essential” that Iran plays a “constructive role in building solid peace and stability in theMiddle East,” noting that a conflict “might be triggered accidentally”.